Essays, repost, services, writing tips

Repost: Outsourcing to Save Your Sanity and Your Self-Publishing Project

 

I found this post online a few days ago, and I thought the content was extremely useful in regards to putting out the best self-published book possible. And yes, there is a great section there about the importance of outsourcing editing services. Ahem.  

 

Click this link to view article: https://amyharrop.com/how-to-outsource-to-boost-self-publishing-success/

Essays

Making Lemonade from Lemons with Manuscript Magic

So, the Manuscript Magic test has officially begun. And, I have to say that I am enjoying the program, learning a lot and, for the first time, really enjoying revision process.

Say what?!

Yes, that’s right.

I’m having fun.

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First off, the program is well set up. Writer and editor Bonne Johnston discusses various writing issues on video (for ex. how to solve a slow opening, how to fix boring characters, how to eliminate too much backstory or exposition) and each module includes a PDF version of the topic that includes questions and solutions to resolve those issues.

(As I listened to the videos, it helped to think about the story as a first draft and not a finished novel I wrote 8 years ago. It made the grievous mistakes I made easier to swallow!)

Anyway, the module videos are very helpful. The videos are short. I haven’t watched them all but they usually run about 8-20 minutes. The PDFs are printable, downloadable, and fillable.

Bonnie made a point in one of the videos that I appreciated. She said that it’s normal for writers to make certain mistakes in a draft, especially if the writer is in Exploratory Writing Mode.

I know this, but it was still good to hear it.

I’ll elaborate.

When I start a new project, I’m usually inspired by a feeling, a phrase, or a picture but have no idea where to take it so I write to see what develops. Writing like that is freeing, but I end up over-explaining developing ideas, which causes info dumps, stagnant patches, over-description, or the character being overly introspective. As freeing as being a ‘pantser’ can be, I think it can contribute to frustration and dread of pending revisions, especially for perfectionists (me!). Yes, it’s satisfying to write passionately about a subject, but deep down I know a lot of what I’ve written just isn’t good. So, for me, Bonnie’s point normalized this writing pattern and presented it in a way that actually served a purpose (getting ideas on the page and actually finishing the MS) while offering hope that with the program’s help, I’ll have the tools needed to make lemonade from lemons.

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Last night, I started the analysis of the manuscript for The Eagle’s Gift (TEG). I went through it scene by scene and wrote down some basic info about each, while noting what I didn’t like as well as my own solutions. Luckily, the MS is short (12 chapters) so this didn’t take too long. In just over an hour, I had produced a working outline and had identified the preliminary problems.

This morning, I went on to step 2: completing the MM checklist. This was quick, and I completed it during my daughter’s karate course and still had time to spare.  In the checklist, I responded to specific questions about each scene, which ultimately identified specific structural problems in need of fixing before moving forward with the fine tuning and polish (style and flow, line editing, etc.).

I appreciated this because as a pantser, I often write from a place of inspiration and no fixed outline or story structure. So, when I’m trying to edit, I get lost in how to solve the problems I sense but can’t see. For the first time, I felt I was actually working in a productive, targeted manner.

After the checklist, I used the diagnostic tool, where the Fixes for the story’s problems are presented. Bonnie’s videos and the PDFs I mentioned previously facilitate the process without telling you what to do. In the MM process, the suggestions help the writer come up with solutions that he or she deems appropriate to the story being written.

Ok, so that’s about the program description and process. What about the results?

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I had mentioned that TEG was a failed manuscript. Reading over the various versions 8 years later, it was clear why the story failed. But, I also realized that, at this point in my life, I didn’t want to write that story anymore. The problem I had examined in that story was answered in the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy, which is self-published.

Another thing Bonnie mentioned (and we’ve all heard this before) is that when you cut something from a story, you can either put it aside or find a way to reuse it. With that in mind, I decided to put the original story aside. There are some beautifully written parts amidst some bad parts, and I am attached to it all. But I had to remind myself that even if I cut sections, they still exist on file and I can reread them anytime I like.

Then I had another flash. I didn’t like the MC. As she was, Charlotte didn’t fit the new story I want to tell.

What to do, what to do?

Scratch-head

I have another WIP called The Dragon’s Egg (TDE). I love the main characters. They are fully realized with backstories, have relatable motivations, etc. but I’ve never been able to come up with a satisfying story for them.

So, the stroke of genius:  Why not harvest Slevyn, Shasta, and Dorit from TDE and transplant them into TEG, which is complete, and build a new story around them?

That got me excited. Up until I started this post, I was busily making character notes in preparation for the necessary adaptations—again, a huge deal for someone who hates to plan stories. But that’s another benefit of this process: I have accepted that I am in Editing/Revision Mode rather than Writing Mode, and so planning has finally become acceptable.  

So far, I am happy with the MM process. Learning to think analytically about my writing and having tools to identify and fix issues on a story level is a relief. I actually feel empowered. After so many years, I finally feel hopeful about being able to bring closure to two failed manuscripts. Further, I am now faced with the possibility of producing an even better product by combining elements from each into something new rather than continuing to force two unsuccessful projects to completion.

I’ll probably be stuck at the rewriting phase for a bit, so I am not sure when I’ll be posting another update. But I can say that I’ve already gained a lot in the short time I’ve used the program, and I’m eager to see how it can help as I move forward with this new project.  

Until the next update!

Essays, writing tips

Finally. Revision Help for the Hopeless Writer

Revising is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many writers. The reasons vary from not having a good beta-reader or critique network, to lack of editing skills or lack of confidence in our own editing skills, lack of money to pay someone to do the job for us, etc. Like many of you, I’ve experienced those issues at various stages of my writing career. Not only do those problems cause stress, but they can delay the completion of a manuscript or result in the production of an inferior one.

Head in Hands

My published books in the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy took many years to complete, largely for the reasons mentioned above. At the completion of each book, the sense of accomplishment and joy I felt were immediately followed by terror:  What the heck do I do now, and how in the world can I afford it???

Recently, I’ve been attending various free webinars on subjects like book marketing and tools to facilitate the book writing process. Last night, I attended one on the basics of good revision called, The 3 Levels of Fiction Revision & Why You Must Know Them, hosted by Laura Backes and Jon Bard.

The content was great. Simple, concise, informative and also a good refresher. I learned to write not by attending creative writing courses or workshops by doing the work and learning from my mistakes. The lack of formal training has always been a source of anxiety for me, as it leads to constant second-guessing and a disorganized method of writing and revision. The webinar was helpful in putting a framework on what revision actually is and the essentials for doing it right.

But, then there was the introduction of a new revision tool they created called, Manuscript Magic. It’s only been out a few months, and it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. But it is an online program that takes revision to a new level for someone like me who learned on the go and is still learning on the go.

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The program breaks the revision process down from revising a chapter at a time to revising a scene at a time, which is more manageable and less daunting. There are teaching videos which elaborate on writing concepts, as well as checklists that point out specific aspects of your story to consider while offering change options. Ultimately, it seems to be a practical writer’s guide to editing and revision, or maybe better, a tool that teaches how to shift from Writer Mode to Editor Mode, and to do it with confidence.

So, I bought the membership. It wasn’t cheap but I’ve paid more than that for simple proofreads, forget about a full manuscript edit. And, that’s saying a lot because I NEVER buy the programs or tools or packages offered at the end of webinars. But this program interested me because it’s a once-time purchase not a monthly subscription and, if it works 1) it would drastically improve my manuscripts in less time that it normally takes and with less frustration, 2) could reduce the amounts I would normally spend on editing by presenting the editor/proof-reader with a cleaner manuscript 3) I can learn to become a better writer and reviser 4) it could help me improve and complete the other WIPs wallowing on the backburner these last few years. In other word, I might be able to write better, complete projects faster, and ultimately publish better books.

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I plan to start with the first book I wrote, The Eagle’s Gift. It was a passion project that got ruined after too many crits from the review site I joined resulted in a jumbled mess. At the time, I was too inexperienced and in love with the book to handle all the feedback. The story never recovered, but I am hopeful this program can help me identify the problems and fix them.

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So, is my gamble worth it? Can the program deliver? I joined up last night and all the promised bonuses (dedicated Facebook support, free advice and counsel from well-known editing professionals active in the business) for signing up right away were available. The Facebook group is small but active and people are posting about their positive experiences. So, good start. I’ll keep you all posted and let you know how it all works out.

Essays

Slow Writing by Chris Galvin

Some great thoughts here about taking time to get your writing project just right.

QWF Writes

Chris bakes muffins too

Like bread dough, my writing seems to require time to rise in a warm, draft-free place. The long proofing period is necessary; turn up the heat to hurry the rising, or don’t leave it long enough, and I get a stodgy, dense loaf.

Under ideal conditions—solitude, free time and excitement about what I’m writing—the words pour forth quickly. It’s exhilarating. But normally, I write when I can. I like to have control over an essay or story as it forms, and I edit as I write, considering each sentence as I put it to paper—does it say what I want it to say, or does it imply something else? I read what I’ve written aloud—does it have the right rhythm? Is my translation of Vietnamese dialogue as true to the original as possible? Does it sound natural?

The second proofing of the dough is as important as the first. Even…

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Essays, Misc

My Writer’s Brain Was Hijacked and What I Did About It

Ever feel like someone hijacked your brain and wrote crap into your manuscript when you weren’t looking? Well, that’s me at the moment.

Let me explain. I’ve been working on Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to The Purple Morrow for two years. It’s been through numerous rewrites, about 3-4 different rounds of beta-reads and hours upon hours of editing. Why so much work? At over 102K it’s the longest and most complex book I’ve ever written, and it’s also my first sequel. There are so many moving parts to the story that I wanted to make sure that everything fit as well as read great. So when I completed the last batch of corrections in June, I thought I had the thing in the bag. I dotted the last i and crossed the last t and then put it aside to look for an editor.

Well, a few months later, I found a proof-reader so I decided to prepare a chapter or two so he could do a sample edit, when I almost had a heart attack.

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Agape, I stared at the computer. Then I stared harder. “No, no, no,” I thought, “this is some cruel joke. Somebody must be messing with me.” But that wasn’t the case.

As I reread the prologue, I cringed. Physically, like in movies. Why hadn’t I seen all these mistakes before? Why had I left in all that exposition? The over-writing? I mean, who needs four bloody adjectives in a row?

I set to rewriting, immediately. I couldn’t stand it. There was no way I was going to let that mess stare me in the face without doing anything about it. I finished the rewrite and sent it and the first chapter off for the sample edit, feeling good about the changes. I was happy when the proof-reader gave positive feedback, which seemed to confirm that the rewrite was needed. But then I had to consider that other 100K words needed to be reread. And revised. Again.

I got to work. I’m about halfway through and I’m still shocked at what I feel I have to revise.

So why am I sharing this? Because I think it proves the point that our writing is always in a state of evolution. What was good enough of us one day just won’t be down the line. We are constantly learning and trying new things, so it’s only natural that we will look back on our older work and sometimes feel, yes, even embarrassed.

From sthjradfordmedia.blogspot.com
From sthjradfordmedia.blogspot.com

I admit I get frustrated about that. And worried. If I notice the difference compared to my older works then others might too. But then, think about it: the writers, film-makers and visual artists we revere didn’t come out of the gate at the top of their games, did they? No, they started at a certain point and improved as they matured and gained experience. I bet more than a few of them looked back with a sort of shock and dismay at their earlier projects as well.

So, I guess we can all give ourselves a break. Right?

From clarkssummitphysicaltherapists.com
From clarkssummitphysicaltherapists.com

This time around, I actually feel as though my manuscript is finally on the right track. I feel a little giddy with excitement as I sit down to figure out which sections to take out or how to rewrite them. Cutting out bad writing and replacing it with something infinitely better is so satisfying. And, now that I’m looking back on the story with a better understanding of the characters, I find it easier to express certain ideas, aspects of their personalities, and motivations that I couldn’t before. Over all, what started as an almost traumatic experience is actually turning out for the better. I like to think that deep down I knew the story wasn’t ready and that instinct urged me to take one last look at it. Thank goodness! If all goes well, I hope Bane with be published in the fall. 🙂

How about you? What are your thoughts on when your manuscript is ready for the final edit? Have you been horrified to look back on your old work and how did you cope?